Another change in Monastery land issue proposed

Another change in Monastery land issue proposed

McKee would put all but 10 acres in an outside trust

CUMBERLAND - Mayor Daniel McKee, feeling targeted in recent weeks by a save-the-Monastery group that's suggested he has big plans for building on this open space, is proposing a plan to put all but 10 acres of the land under the control of an outside trust for the next 20 years.

The idea, he says, is to resolve residents' fears of "creeping" development of the Monastery Grounds by locking it up and handing the keys to an independent conservation group.

Except for the 10 acres where he proposes the safety building, he said, "the town wouldn't be able to touch the land during that period of time."

Currently, the much-touted Town Council's 2004 Monastery resolution and conservation management plan can be overturned by a simple Town Council vote, he noted.

Meanwhile, the Town Council meets tonight, July 31, to resolve a possible ballot question about putting the safety building on Monastery Grounds opposite the post office on Diamond Hill Road.

The special session begins at 7 p.m. in the Town Council Chamber.

Two weeks ago, councilors approved the referendum seeking $12.5 million for building the complex itself. That question doesn't name a site.

The separate site question was tabled as the clock reached 11:30 p.m. Residents were raising objections and Town Solicitor Tom Hefner was suggesting a series of changes.

This newest preservation twist sees McKee working with the Department of Environmental Management. It'll happen, he said, whether or not residents vote in favor of using Monastery land for the new police and rescue stations.

He wants the arrangement in place, he said, well before the November balloting.

"One is not subject to the other," he said.

The plan has the endorsement of one of the Monastery's most ardent defenders, Jeff Mutter, who was the council president in 2004 when his board adopted an ordinance and a conservation and management plan in an effort to ban any new recreational or government building on the 525 acres acquired by the town in 1968 and 1972.

"My position has evolved," Mutter told The Breeze this week.

"If that's the absolutely best place for a public safety complex, what right do I have to say it can't go there?" he asked.

McKee, who was mayor when the Monastery management plan was adopted in 2004, says now, "I'm happy to partner with Jeff to put the heavier restriction on the Monastery today."

But he did add, "There's a value in using an asset strategically when it's in the best interest of the town as when we did with the library (expansion). I think people are happy with what we did there. If it's done right, people will sit back and say that was an improvement the town can be proud of."

Mutter said he still wants assurance that from a financial and safety point of view, there's no better location.

But he also concedes the 2004 legislation "has no teeth if the council decides to amend it."

Town officials have admitted they don't have a good alternative site for the complex, eliminating for various reasons the National Grid property, the Ashton fire and rescue site, and the Drop Zone properties, all off Mendon Road, as well as town land on Angell Road near Lippitt Estates.

McKee first started talking about a new public safety complex, or building as he now calls it, in 2012 when an outside consultant studying consolidation of the fire districts recommended the overdue replacement of the police station and rescue headquarters.

The plan was eventually pegged at $12.5 million and General Assembly members OK'd it for Cumberland's November ballot in June, but not without first raising questions about the location.

In an effort to maximize local support, McKee proposed a second ballot question that named the Monastery site, thereby allowing voters to say yes to the public safety building but no to using the Monastery location.

That brought college student Alexandra Curran to the July 16 council meeting, where she raised pointed questions about why only the Monastery site is offered residents.

She followed up with creation of the Monastery Preservation Alliance, an organization that drew some 140 residents to a meeting in the old Monastery chapel room.


Town Council members are considering this ballot question at tonight's special meeting:

Shall the Cumberland Town Council authorize construction of a public safety building on town-owned land located on Diamond Hill Road across from the U.S. Post Office which is a portion of Assessor's Plat 22, Lot 8, not to exceed 10 acres. Said building to be built in an area north of the power lines, which begin at Lynch Park, with the town continuing to preserve the remaining 515 acres of land otherwise known as the Monastery?

Comments

OK, this is the beginning of a discussion on this, why I am not yet entirely convinced that this is the best option, I will keep my mind open.
That being said, why only twenty years in trust, why not fifty? That would make me feel better about it. This Town has changed since I have lived here, there has been too much development resulting in too much traffic and high taxes. We need to preserve the open space that we have to preserve our quality of life.
Finally, who would be the Trustee, possibly the Cumberland Land Trust, they have done a great job with open space in Town, just a suggestion.

Tonight's meeting raised more questions than it answered for me. Yes, this will be put on the ballot but do the residents know what they are actually voting for? Why is the town so set on using this particular piece of land? What will residents actually be agreeing to be built on this 10 acre parcel? How can town officials be so confident that they will be able to get state approval for the building? Lastly, is it just a coincidence that it happens to be within close proximity to the new manufacturing facility being built just across 295? Just something's for residents to consider before saying "yes" to using this land. To me this is starting to sound more like the "politics as usual" of Rhode Island.
The answer comes down to reading between the lines to fill in what is NOT being said about why here why now and what will the land actually be used for? It is not as simple as just giving our police and rescue a new facility if that were the case then that would be a no brainer. In my opinion it seems that there are too many unspoken and unanswered questions.
We as residents before we say "yes" need to nail down these answers and feet of our politicians to get at the real truth. So please ask for the specific details and make sure that that is exactly what you are agreeing to or not with this issue.

Tonight's meeting raised more questions than it answered for me. Yes, this will be put on the ballot but do the residents know what they are actually voting for? Why is the town so set on using this particular piece of land? What will residents actually be agreeing to be built on this 10 acre parcel? How can town officials be so confident that they will be able to get state approval for the building? Lastly, is it just a coincidence that it happens to be within close proximity to the new manufacturing facility being built just across 295? Just something's for residents to consider before saying "yes" to using this land. To me this is starting to sound more like the "politics as usual" of Rhode Island.
The answer comes down to reading between the lines to fill in what is NOT being said about why here why now and what will the land actually be used for? It is not as simple as just giving our police and rescue a new facility if that were the case then that would be a no brainer. In my opinion it seems that there are too many unspoken and unanswered questions.
We as residents before we say "yes" need to nail down these answers and feet of our politicians to get at the real truth. So please ask for the specific details and make sure that that is exactly what you are agreeing to or not with this issue.

Jane, can appreciate a cautious approach but some of your questions are answered and some are just not applicable.

I have read in many places that they have looked at various sites, most are just not viable due to size, location or cost; that's why they are looking at the current proposed piece of land.

Maybe they are confident about DEM because they have ask some preliminary questions; and if it fails DEM they go back to the drawing board as they say. (This is an opinion.)

As this project has been on the table since 2012 and the new facility just this year can’t see a connection nor what would be wrong if there was.

Why do people think that there is always some big back door thing going on? Why can’t it be just a good plan for the majority of the citizens? What is politics as usual anyway? It’s not like they are paying millions to a person for this land….PS: If people vote it down the people win, if the people vote to approve it the people win. See the common denominator?

The question states what the land will be used for, it is very clear. The public argument is about the building of a SAFTETY Complex. It is as simple as a new police and rescue building; that’s the ONLY thing the bond money CAN be used for.

But at least you are asking questions.

Simply a police and rescue complex is not what any municipal purpose says to me. When Mr. Higgins was posed the question regarding other possible uses he did not say not definitively. He say no with the cavity that he would then propose and ordinance that any other functions or buildings would have to be put the a town vote. What if our town council president changes his mind after we all say "yes" and that so called ordinance never gets put in place? We will have a fire department there we will have a new how hall or town administration building there.
Remember the bond question and the land question are two separate issues.
I am not debating nor it seems is anyone else the fact that we need the bond issue and the money for a new police and rescue building. I am not even being sentimental regarding Monastery land.
At the meeting I heard a big "no because" from the council president no simply a no. So in other words what I am not hearing is there is a possibility for additional municipal use of the land beyond the police and rescue. That is a big red flag in my book.

Also after listening to the police chief himself regarding the condition of the police station I also have to ask the question why has it taken so long for this bond question. According to him the building has been in disrepair for sometime but this is the first that this news has really come to light for the public. What have our town leaders been doing the last 5 Years or longer as this problem did not happen just within the last two years when this was first brought up? Again I question why now why the rush all of a sudden to act on an issue that has been going on for years with out any action.

If the true intent of the land is simply and solely for a police and rescue complex why do they need ten acres? Ten acres is approximately 435,600 square feet . The Proviidence safety complex sits only on 130,000 square feet ? I will agree that yes, it is three stories tall but it serves the city of Providence which is much larger that the town of Cumberland. So, again I ask the question if the intent is only to put the police and rescue on this parcel of land why is 10 acres being proposed. This seems a bit excessive. Remember the bond only pays for the building itself it is the taxpayers that will foot the bill to maintain this property once construction is complete. Is the ten acres being used so as to exclude any other viable location? It's seems to me that half that amount should be sufficient for a two story modern facility if a 130,000 square foot print is suitable the the city of providence.
If the acreage was reduced would there then be other viable options?
It is a fact that the mayor preserved a vast amount of land in this town and of all this land this is the only viable option??? From what was discussed last night it seems that our town officials are truly unwilling to listen to any alternative even when a state rep stated he has another option. So, again I have to ask why the hyper focus on this piece of land.
I think there needs to be a better thought out plan before saying this is the only place.
I do think we need to build a new police and rescue building but does it really need to be built here?
If the answer to that is yes then let us only take what we truly need for this building and not any extra. It is the extra land and it's potential use that is in question.
If we say yes to this will we then open the door for additional building on this land?
Is this hyper focus on this parcel is anyway linked to to the construction of the manufacturing facility going on as we speak and it's potential requirement for fire and rescue ? And further more once the rescue is in will the fire department be right behind?

"Politics as usual" is the motivation behind ALL of these deals. Sorry, but history has shown me to not trust ANY politician! Too many times the deal has been agreed upon, only to have it changed AFTER the details were worked out. Residents have to look no further than the CHS2010 fiasco. Originally it was pitched as a $5 million bond to renovate the HS. After all was said and done, it cost OVER DOUBLE and the HS is STILL a mess. "Why do people think that there is always some back door thing going on?"...Well, it's most likely attributed to the fact that there is always a back door thing going on! You are either ignorant, stupid, or one of "them" if you don't see that. As far as ANY promises, agreements, or even approved ballot questions, history has also shown that ANY ARE SUBECT TO CHANGE. Too many times, I've watched elected officials "flip flop" after getting something approved, and everyone to support a cause, usually for personal gain or to help an ally's hidden agenda. Let's face it...if their mouths are moving, they are probably twisting the truth. History proves it. Oh, and before you tell me to "get involved to change things"...I'm not a politician! And I shouldn't have to get elected MYSELF to get an honest and binding agreement that is beneficial to the majority of tax payers! That is the job that we elect our representatives to do. It would be great to see that happen again...someday, but I don't believe that is the way the system is set up to work anymore. If you give them 10 acres, they will be back for more...guaranteed.

I guess I am stupid, no, wait I think I will take Ignorant. Yes that's it I will take Ignorant. Because if I were stupid I would lower myself to "name calling" like you. If there are back door deals CALL THE STATE POLICE. It's that simple. Illegal activity is not looked on very kindly.

Please, Please tell me who has a personal gain here?? point it out and CALL THE STATE POLICE.

PS: You should be ashamed by electing all those liars.

Good thing they haven't taken away our right to have and speak an opinion. Nothing would be written in this "back room" blog. opps.

Totally agreed. Last night's meeting left me with more doubt than ever before. Please people, the town officials are asking us to believe their promises, by allowing them to break their previous promises of 2004. Seriously! What I found even scarier was their confidence that they will get state approval to break the existing ordinance. Wake up voters. I had planned on voting yes to the new police station and no to allowing them to break the Monastery ordinance to do so. After last night's meeting, I have no choice to vote no to the police station. Gives us another location, then you will get my vote, but I would be an idiot to so before.

PS, Cumberland facts, yes I am VERY ASHAMED of our elected officials, but I assure you I did not and will not vote for them.

Anyone considering running for office if they read these comments would be scared away! Not that anyone who posts on here cares!

Anyone considering running for office if they read these comments would be scared away! Not that anyone who posts on here cares!

Sillyseason you picked an appropriate name.

Don’t take my comments personally. It’s not like I know who you are. I wasn’t calling anyone names per se, I was simply describing possible reasons for your previous (what I would consider) silly statements. Your name suggests that you deal with 'facts", and the truth is just that. Maybe it’s that you are just gullible? Honestly, if a survey was taken of a thousand taxpayers that asked them to answer truthfully to the question, “How often do you think that a ‘back door deal’ is being brokered when a political agreement has been made?”, I would guess that OVER 90% would answer ALMOST ALWAYS! THAT'S HOW IT WORKS! Again, you would either have to have your head in the sand to not see it that way, be intellectually challenged, or be in denial, or possibly involved in the dealings! Unfortunately, dishonestly is not punishable by law, unless of course it is done in the commission of a crime. Is flip-flopping on the issues a crime yet? As far as who would benefit from a deal to build a new safety complex…there are numerous entities that might, considering the chunk of cash to be split up, not to mention the jobs to be meted out . Because I am not that educated or intelligent and I know these things, I’m going to conclude that your obstacle at understanding all of this is not associated with ignorance. And, for the record, I did not elect nor support any of these “liars”.

Having served on the last Charter Review Commission any time the Town is going to spend over $250,00 on a facility the Town must follow Article 1713 Building Committee. See The Town Charter on Town's website.

I guess your NON name calling comment did make the cut and was deleted, why?

Now I am gullible. OK not as bad a stupid, I guess.

Your goal, most of the time, is to just rant. Most of what you have to say has no bearing or meaning, but to you. JUST WHO IS GETS THE CASH? And you are insinuating wrong people get the cash...that would be illegal. Do you have knowledge of this? THEN CALL THE STATE POLICE. So paranoid.

PS: when you address someone it's personal. And I am so glad you know who I am. Contact me then, you must know how.

Lastly Mr. Stuck, you have to talk in more detail and less in generalities as you mostly do,and you have yet to directly debate or disprove any of my comments.

Ha and at times I agree with you...

I guess you’ve got me figured out! Me ranting to myself can be directly attributed to discussing issues with too many people whose answers didn’t seem to make a lot of sense to me, or worse, finding out they were liars. It could be that you and I have a difference of opinion, which, it’s been said that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. I’m an engineer. I deal with numbers, statistics, and probabilities. I will concede that there are exceptions to my paranoid conclusions, but, over the years, I’ve found that this is not usually the case. (“So paranoid”…now who’s calling who names?) I am not insinuating that “wrong people get the cash”. I’m saying that, if there is $12.5 million and a multitude of job opportunities up for grabs, then many will say or do whatever it takes to get their piece of it. I hope we can agree that greed is a manipulative force, escpecially in a capitalistic society where money rules. Maybe you feel differently, but as previously stated, I DON’T know you or what your motivation is…and that’s why this forum is PERFECT for expressing my opinions, even if it’s just to hear myself talk. In the future, feel free to scroll by my comments and leave me, myself, and I to talk amongst ourselves!

Hi, Enjoy this...yes we sometimes disagree...I must start to write when we agree. BUT Paranoid is a state of mind, not an insult...sort of like saying one is nervous. (verus stupid, a result of lack of thinking.) I will NOT scroll past your comments and leave all those nuggets of gold to you. Have a nice day, I mean that.

Lives in the valley and is an engineer and opinionated. Getting closer. LOL And my motivation is not to sway, but to point out what is opinion pushed as facts.